Monday, 14 October 2019

The chief ministers of Sabah and Sarawak have asked the federal government to explain the formula used to calculate the amount for special grants

Explain formula for grants to Sabah, Sarawak say CMs
Durie Rainer Fong
-October 14, 2019 7:44 PM

Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg sharing a light moment with his Sabah counterpart, Shafie Apdal, in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: The chief ministers of Sabah and Sarawak have asked the federal government to explain the formula used to calculate the amount for special grants to the two states as announced last week in the 2020 Budget.

Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal said the issue was raised by the two states during a previous meeting of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 committee. “We did ask for it but it was never discussed,” he said after receiving a courtesy call from his Sarawak counterpart Abang Johari Openg.

In the 2020 Budget, the special allocation for Sabah and Sarawak would be doubled to RM53.4 million for Sabah and RM32 million for Sarawak, the first increase in 50 years, and would rise further to RM106.8 million for Sabah and RM64 million for Sarawak in the next five years.

However finance minister Lim Guan Eng had questioned yesterday why Sarawak was still unhappy as the previous Barisan Nasional government had never given the state so much before.

Shafie said today: “While not quite happy with the allocations, and we could do with more, nevertheless we’re thankful to the finance ministry.”

Abang Johari said there should be a proper formula instead of a one-off calculation being used to determine the amount of the federal grants.

“If federal revenue increases, then you have to calculate based on that in order for you to contribute back to the states. If the revenue is less there should be another formula. ‘Kalau susah sama susah, kalau senang sama senang’ (we should stick together in good times and bad),” Abang Johari said.

“What we don’t want is that when they are in good times, they forget about Sabah and Sarawak people – this is what we’re worried about,” he said.

Responding to a question, Abang Johari said Sarawak felt the allocation given to the state was not reflective of the state’s contributions to federal revenue.

“If we look at the size of our territory and resources, then we really are not satisfied. This is because of the rationale they’re using.

“They compare us to Perlis and other states in the peninsula – it’s definitely not fair because if the size of the state is big then you need more, to develop basic infrastructure such as digital infrastructure,” he said.

For example, Abang Johari said, Malaysia was moving towards 5G mobile phone technology, and optical fibre must be laid throughout Sarawak – that means from Lawas all the way to Kuching (a distance of almost 1,000 kilometres).

“You cannot merely list state by state,” he said, pointing out that Selangor and Melaka were similar to Kuching in size.

“That’s why we say when you disburse your funds you must be rational. That’s why we have to raise our own funds to develop the infrastructure desired by the people. That’s why the profits from oil and gas have to be disbursed fairly,” he said.

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